New Growth Plan Could End Development Moratorium in Montgomery County

A planning change would make it easier to develop housing near transit in Montgomery County, Maryland. In 2018, the county adopted a development moratorium intended to prevent overcrowding in schools.

2 minute read

August 10, 2020, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Montgomery County

A neighborhood in Bethesda, Maryland. | Nicole Glass Photography / Shutterstock

"On July 30, the Montgomery Planning Board voted on a new growth policy known as the Subdivision Staging Policy. If approved by the County Council, the county would — with one exception — no longer ban new housing in areas with overcrowded schools," reports Jane Lyons.

Montgomery County adopted a building moratorium in 2018 (and implemented the moratorium in 2019) in parts of the county, where schools are reportedly overcrowded, like Silver Spring, Wheaton, and part of Bethesda

According to the analysis of both Lyons and the Planning Board, the moratorium was ineffective for controlling school crowding. [O]ver 70% of school enrollment growth can be attributed to 'neighborhood turnover,' or single-family homes without school-aged children being sold to young families," explains Lyons, citing data from Montgomery Planning. 

"However, there are still parts of the county (see: Clarksburg) where new development is the driving force behind enrollment growth. These areas would be classified as 'Greenfield Impact Areas,'" according to Lyons. The new growth policy "would apply an automatic housing moratorium to greenfield areas and raise the moratorium threshold from 120% to 125% projected school utilization." Some exceptions, explained by Lyons, are also included in the Greenfield Impact Areas.

Another key feature of the new growth policy is an allowance for Utilization Premium Payments to be paid by developers in parts of the county where development would potential add students to already crowded schools. Utilization Premium Payments would be "an extra charge on top of the regular tax that developers must pay for school impacts," reports Lyons.

The plan also allows for school impact taxes to be lowered in parts of the county where growth is desired.

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